After seeing an early run on the top wide receivers in the NFL Draft, the Saints apparently felt like they couldn’t wait any longer Thursday.
The team traded with the Arizona Cardinals for the 20th pick in the first round and took Brandin Cooks of Oregon State.
To get to Cooks, the Saints gave up their third round pick (No. 91) as well as their original first round pick (No. 27). Trade leaves them with only their second-round pick (No. 58) on Friday.
“There were three guys who were still in our group, but the problem was that there were seven or eight picks left,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “Only one of those three was someone prior to the process we felt we would move to get, and that was Brandin.
“And is began to unfold, it was a matter of finding the right team and the right partner. We weighed giving up a third round pick, but when you’re picking 27th, you’re only five picks away form giving up a fourth.”
Cooks (5-foot-9 ½, 180 pounds) was the fourth wide receiver picked, following Sammy Watkins of Clemson (No. 4 to Buffalo), Mike Evans of Texas A&M (No 7 to Tampa Bay) and Odell Beckham of LSU (No. 12 to the New York Giants).
Cooks broke the Pac-12 single season receiving record last season with 128 catches for 1,730 yards which earned him the Biletnikoff Award was the nation’s best receiver.
Cooks, who was in New York for the draft, said when the Saints made the trade he felt that it would so they could get him.
“At the combine when I had an interview with them I had a special feeling when I walked out the door,” he said. “And it happened.
“And now I’m coming into the league with a future Hall of Fame quarterback (Drew Brees). The thing about Drew is that he gets the ball to all of his players, so you have to be excited about that.”
Payton said Cooks also could be used as a return man to replace Darren Sproles, who was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles.
”I’m excited about that,” Cooks said. “Being in the slot, being outside, returning kicks, that’s my game.
“I can’t complain about that.”
But basically, Cooks fills a position of need.
The Saints did not resign veteran receiver Lance Moore although they did retain Robert Meacham to go along with longtime starter Marques Colston.
“Wide receiver was one of the positions we targeted going in, Payton said, “And for us, Cooks was the highest-rated player on the board at the position,
“We feel like we’ve got other receivers with good speed. This was more about the makeup of this player who really stood out when we were evaluating the first round.”
Cooks does indeed have outstanding speed. His 4.33 in the 40-yard dash at the combine was the second fastest of the all players there. He also ranked the best at his position with a 36-inch vertical jump and a 10-0 standing broad jump.
A four-star recruit out of Lincoln High School in Stockton, Calif., Cooks bypassed his senior year to enter the draft.
Thursday’s trade was the Saints fourth involving a first-rounder in its nine years under Payton.
With the first-round pick obtained from the Saints, Arizona took safety Deone Bucannon of Washington State.
This story was changed on Friday, May 9, 2014, to correct the name of the team the Saints traded with in the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday night.